Written by lancemartin
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Saturday, 15 December 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - An evening of dinner theater fun turned ugly when at least 10 members of a visiting Red Hat Society turned the night into a drunken free-for-all, police say.

Ten Red Hats, ranging in age from 59 to 71, were arrested and held in jail overnight, Sgt. Bruce Aycock, of the Raleigh Police Department, said.

"It was just a mess," theater manager Anderson Wilcox said. "They were all just drunker than skunks. We had to postpone the show."

Wilcox said the Red Hats made catcalls prior to the opening of a stage production of "The Goodbye Girl," and one of them actually rushed the stage. "They all stunk of alcohol," he said. "I noticed during dinner they were really boozing it up. But I figured they were all mature women and could handle their hooch."

Little did Wilcox realize that would not be the case. "We had some minor technical difficulties that had to be worked before the rise of the curtain," he explained.

That's when the trouble started. One Red Hat threw a hip flask full of bourbon on the stage and the madness ensued just as the curtain went up. "Then they all rushed the stage, cussing and screaming the show was no good and we hadn't even started."

It was a sight to see, said usher Kimberly Askew. "All these old ladies drunk and fighting with the actors. I smelled trouble when I escorted a group of them to their seats. They were cussing like sailors, telling me I didn't know what the hell I was doing."

The drunken brawl caused approximately $5,000 in damages to the theater. There were broken seats, damaged sets and even some floor lights were shattered, Wilcox said.

Three actors and a stagehand were injured but were treated and released.

Wilcox said he is doubtful he will allow the Red Hats to return to the theater.

The 10 Red Hats were charged with misdemeanors.

Eleanor Cosby, one of the Red Hats charged, said she didn't realize they had done all that damage. "We were having a good time and mildly irritated the show didn't start on time," said the 70-year-old who punched a stagehand in the jaw, "But I didn't realize we did all that. I guess I won't drink that much anymore."

Millicent Morgan, her red hat torn and tattered, was also stunned at the news. "We did have a little too much to drink but it was all in fun. I just rushed the stage because I love that one actor. He is such a dreamboat."

This is not the first incident involving drunken Red Hats. In 2004, 50 Red Hats were involved in a brawl at a biker bar in Topeka, Kan.

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